Posted by: Abby Rhodes | February 28, 2010

Band meets for first rehearsal

Though the WIU students, faculty, and alumni touring Brazil next month are performing under the name of the university’s premier band, the group includes several members new to the ensemble.  Bringing together student musicians from various bands with players who traded WIU classrooms for nine-to-fives years ago requires getting down to business on the weekends.  This Sunday, the group met in Browne Hall on Western’s campus for its first formal rehearsal.

About two hours into the three-hour session, saxophone player Meredith Roche said she was pleasantly surprised.  “I’m pretty optimistic because we’ve never played together as this group before.  I think we sound really good for a first rehearsal,” Roche said.

Sophomore Abby Chien during first tour rehearsal

Monday through Friday, Assistant Director of Bands Dr. Shawn Vondran is found standing baton in hand in front of players, but Sunday he took a seat as part of the ensemble.  He’ll play the euphonium on the Brazil tour, a fun departure from his regular duties as a director, but uniquely challenging.  “Today has me feeling like I have a lot of work to do on my own.  I haven’t played the horn in over a year, so I really need to practice,” Vondran admitted.

Watching Sunday’s rehearsal, an observer might never guess this group was gathered for the first time.  They worked efficiently, making quick adjustments as they played through about a dozen pieces.  During short breaks, the players listened attentively as Dr. Mike Fansler addressed logistical issues related to the trip.  From luggage to attire to decision making in a foreign country, Fansler covered a variety of topics that may be weighing heavily on students’ minds as they prepare for an international tour.   Even Fansler acknowledged that no amount of planning will prepare the group  for every situation that could arise, but he sought to calm anxieties by providing information.

In the spirit of over-preparedness, the players’ music stands were stocked with a motley group of tunes.  “Our program highlights compositions from around the world.  We have music from Europe, Cuba, South America, and of course the United States, each offering varying characteristics, which I’m hoping will appeal to our Brazilian audience,” Fansler said.

Since some of the players are unable to travel with their own instruments, they have to be ready to work with whatever their Brazilian hosts provide.  This scenario could force percussionists in particular to perform outside their comfort zone, but the uncertainty seemed to intrigue, rather than concern, the section.

The group will convene again next Sunday for their second rehearsal, and for one final practice session one day before they depart for Brazil.

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